17 Dec 2015

Failed school employed formerly suspended teacher

1:03 pm on 17 December 2015

A failed Northland charter school employed and then promoted a teacher who had been suspended for the year before her appointment began.

Lucille Spring got a job at Te Pumanawa o te Wairua in Whangaruru when the school opened in 2014.

The charter school about a week before opening in February.

The charter school about a week before opening in February 2014. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

RNZ can reveal she was suspended from teaching for all of 2013 after an Education Council investigation, which also imposed conditions on her teaching practice.

The disciplinary body also investigated her in 2003 but said privacy laws prevented it from revealing any details about either case. It also said there did not appear to be a strong public interest case for disclosing the information.

The Whangaruru kura had problems from the start, with high truancy rates, poor teaching and students unable to reach basic literacy and numeracy levels.

Education Minister Hekia Parata put the school on notice in February and it was given a last chance in July despite a damning audit saying there were widespread and persistent failings.

The government is proposing to close the school by March saying the teaching is still not good enough.

Documents released by the Ministry of Education at the time show Ms Spring was appointed curriculum manager, in charge of four teachers and two teacher aides.

She was hired by the troubled charter school at Whangaruru in 2014 and became its curriculum manager earlier this year.

David Seymour, under-secretary to the Minister of Education, said there were no restrictions preventing the appointment.

"We have to actually be fair to this particular teacher. She had gone through a process with the Teachers Council, now Educanz, and she was cleared and able to teach at the time that she was hired."

Mr Seymour said the school found it difficult to hire teachers because of its location and education union opposition to charter schools.

Public records show Ms Spring was declared bankrupt in 2003 and 2013.

RNZ was unable to contact Ms Spring and the trust behind the kura would not be interviewed.

Chair of the Nga Parirau Matauranga charitable trust Dee-Ann Brown has issued a statement saying she would not give any information about Ms Spring's employment history and describing her as a valued staff member. The school had no reason to question her professionalism, commitment and integrity.

Te Pumanawa o te Wairua was one of five charter schools which opened last year.

It started with 60 high school age students but that has now fallen to 39. It has had more than $4 million of government funding.